Lost in a World of My Own Creation

The experience of writing a book is different for each person during each manuscript. I am currently working on my fourth novel-length manuscript. The common thread I have found in each experience for me is a tendency to become so submersed that I don’t lose touch with reality, but I try to detach from it. My brain functions in the novel world at the same time as the real world, how much in each one depends on the circumstances of each world. I have to decide who needs me the most.

If I get stuck in my writing, I become depressed. If I become depressed, I get stuck in my writing. When I’m stuck I imagine my characters exactly where I left them (standing in a kitchen, asleep in a stranger’s bed, lying in a pool of blood, etc.) until I get back.

A lot of people obsess over their work, though. I’m sure we writers aren’t as special as we like to think we are.  

Writers are easily distracted, self-centered, impulsive messes. We can’t help it. Please be patient. Some writer you know might have some serious shit going down in their other world.

I Was Content Once

The year was 2007. My first child had just been born. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel any pressure to figure out what I had to do next. I spent my days loving him, tending his needs, and I was happy. It wasn’t perfect or simple, mind you. New babies are scary. Plus we moved from Arkansas to Michigan right after our son was born, and that wasn’t easy for me, but I am extremely adaptable. Maybe I had the opposite of post partum depression. I remember talking happiness with my cousin Chris and telling him that true happiness was indeed contentment. This contentment lasted for probably about three or four months. I am so wise.

My mom used to accuse me of wishing my life away. I’ve noticed my son does it, too. He told me lately he couldn’t wait to be big. I remember feeling that way. It makes me sad for him.

Even at this stage in my life, I’m constantly pushing myself do more, look for something else, accomplish something, because honey, it ain’t enough like it is.

I’m working on a writing project that keeps providing roadblocks. I take it as a sign that my skill is lacking, though overall it is a good piece of work. My confidence is on a precarious perch.

I decided to start writing again during my brief spell of contentment. I decided it was a good time to give my life-long dream a try. Why not? Now as I bang my head repeatedly against the wall, I only wonder why.

I’m pushing myself toward success and my goals aren’t realistic. But I wasted so much of my life afraid of failure.

My worry is how my discontent and the pressure I put on myself affects my family. But if I don’t apply the pressure, who will?

How do people find it within themselves to just be? I had it once, but it slipped away.

Madness

There is screaming in my brain. Stories and prose that are trying to get out. Sometimes I can’t figure out how to put them down. I can’t make the screaming go away. But I don’t want to. It’s my home.

I need validation, a visceral reaction from you. Without it I don’t exist.  But maybe that’s all right. Because sometimes I’m tired of me. Exhausted from the endless tales and always, always needing someone to tell me ‘well done’.  

If I can’t make you laugh, can’t make you cry, can’t make you react, I have wasted my time.  And yours. And for that, I am sorry.  

Today’s reasons to keep writing:

1. If I decide to be a stripper instead, I’ll be allocated to the daytime shift.  Since I have small boobs and a C-section scar, I won’t qualify for primetime.  I’ll have to work during the lunch buffet, while business men gorge on all-you-can eat roast beef. Not only will I suffer the humiliation of being a stripper, I’ll have to deal with men who patronize strip clubs during the day.

2. Every time I consider quitting, encouraging words come through from an industry professional. It’s a strange phenomenon.

3. I’ve been at this almost six years without turning a profit. Some folks might see this as a reason to stop, but it just makes me want to dig my heels in. I have to be on the verge of a financial break-through, right? Such a massive time investment  requires a few more years anyway.

4. I’m fairly certain I lost a Facebook friend over my Taylor Swift blog post.  That’s the most amusing thing that’s happened to me in the last six months. It also means my writing affected  someone on a visceral level, even if it was a bullshit blog post.

5. I’m too old to become a ballerina. I think. Maybe I’m not. I should really check into that. If I’m not too old, then I’m out of here.

In case you’d like to know how it’s going…

I owe an apology to several of my dear friends for the crazy voicemails, e-mails, texts, poorly wrapped packages on doorsteps, and maybe one partially assembled IKEA dog food dispenser for that friend who has a baby but no dog. You see, I had a few nights without sleep.

It’s not often that I suffer from insomnia. Occasionally, however, a goblin lands his antiquated treadmill in the middle of my brain and runs on that rusty bastard all night. Then I get a little crazy.

If I run errands on day four of goblin-induced cracked-outedness, it goes a little something like this: I decide it’s a good idea to go to K-Mart. There’s a young man there wearing a wolf t-shirt, skinny jeans, a bondage belt and Birkenstocks (that part is completely true). I wait in line for fifteen minutes to buy eight items. The cashier doesn’t apologize for removing five years from my life. I’m certain it’s a conspiracy between corporate America and patriarchal society to hold women down. I’m tempted to take off my bra and catch it on fire, but I realize I forgot to put on a bra before I left the house.

I think I see that the chick from Clarissa Explains it All in the parking lot. Holy crap, she has a lot of kids. Oh, that’s not Clarissa unless she’s suddenly become Asian. I spend five minutes thinking about TV shows that aren’t on anymore. Two full minutes are devoted to Rocko’s Modern Life.

My car is hot. I drive to Plum Market. I walk in and shout “I’ll never be what you are to me and what I am to you is a lie!” Someone in an apron offers me a cool glass of water and a strawberry. John Cleese steals my water. I kick him in the shins because that is how I deal with hurt feelings. I am asked to leave Plum Market for kicking John Cleese in the shins. I discuss the merits of low-residency MFA programs with the security guard who removes me from the store. We agree that I am not in a good place to make any life-altering decisions.

Next I go to Kroger. They have a Starbucks there. I suggest someone open a Chipotle within the Starbucks. The barista doesn’t seem interested. I’m certain my idea would change the path of his life. Is this what it is to be an ineffectual intellectual?

Long story short: I need to sleep more and there may or may not be a homeless man in my trunk. I’m afraid to look.

Deadly 777— Assassin Z

Here’s how Deadly 777 works: when you’re tagged, you post seven lines from your current WIP’s page seven, and then tag seven other authors to do the same. I was tagged by my indie hero PJ Jones. She’s not me, by the way. My indie hero is not myself. That would be narcissistic and weird.

I’m not sure why this is called deadly, feels rather harmless.

I’m currently working on my very first YA novel, Assassin Z. It’s about a teenaged assassin (who is deadly) named Zoey, who’s recently been released from training and returned to normal high school.

Brandon was last spotted outside of a known drug-den.  It’s up to me to find out if he’s still there, and then kill him.  I have ten days to complete my mission. After I finish high school, my mission completion time will be reduced to two days.  The Judicious Termination Agency gives students extra time so we can focus on our homework.  It’s both condescending and considerate. 

It’s real now. 

 

Hopefully all of Assassin Z will be ready to share late this year.

Time to torture seven of my writing friends: Lisa Ann Hayes, Pete Magsig, Deedee Ulintz, Jeanne Adwani, Darian Wilk, Rachel Shurig, and Peter Joseph Lewis. Is this the deadly part? Do you guys want to kill me for tagging you?

 

A very short story

Happy New Year!!!

I wrote this flash fiction story a couple of years ago.  It’s never been published anywhere, but it did earn honorable mention in an online contest, and my prize was a t-shirt.  I haven’t submitted any witty musings lately, so I’m posting this story for your potential enjoyment. Feel free to send me a t-shirt.

Marnie

Crazy-assed Marnie Norman didn’t always walk along the sidewalk downtown during lunchtime chewing on aluminum foil.  She used to be normal.  Better than normal, she was a cheerleader.  Believe me, when we were in high school, she was nearly perfect.  That’s when she was still Marnie Smithson.  Nothing like the wild-haired woman she is now, carrying salami in the pockets of the raincoat she wears on hot summer days.

It only takes one bad decision made in one second to change your path from privilege to widow with thirty-seven cats crazy.

Marnie was the girlfriend of Brandon Norman, high school basketball star.  Tall, smart and handsome, Brandon was a once-in-a-lifetime catch.  At least, it felt that way to young Marnie.  Adolescence is like that, everything seems permanent and more important than it really is.

Brandon wanted nothing more than to escape his father’s legacy of farming.  Marnie wanted nothing more than Brandon.  A teenage girl with an obsession is more dangerous than a rabid possum.

The basketball scholarship to State ensured Brandon’s escape.  By graduation night, Marnie’s desperation had becoming a living entity.  She still had another year left in high school and couldn’t imagine her future without him by her side.

She scored a six pack of beer from her older cousin and presented it to Brandon as a graduation gift.  They drove the outskirts town after graduation, drinking beer and talking about college.

“Let’s stop here,” she said to Brandon, “I need to call my mom.”  Except she didn’t call her mom.  She made an anonymous call to change his future.  One hour later, Brandon called his father from jail.

Because of the DWI, he lost his scholarship and settled into the apathy of his farming destiny.  He married Marnie the next summer, years before she started tying her hair with cat-fur covered tube socks.

She ached for Brandon’s baby back then, before she started using old newspapers for bed sheets because she found comfort in the crinkling noise throughout the night.  For some reason, a baby wasn’t meant to be.  Marnie had all the tests run, but Brandon wouldn’t comply.

Though he didn’t know about Marnie’s betrayal, he resented her as though he did.  The years rolled by and Brandon drank more and more.  He eventually got into accidents on purpose so he could score pain pills and take solace in numbness.

Marnie worked as a bank teller and pretended everything was fine. She held out hope that their relationship would return to the high school glory days, long before she started drawing maps to the grocery store on her forearm with mustard.   She tried everything to make him happy, but she would never be his escape from the farm.  She was his tether.

When the paramedics arrived on the scene, Brandon was slumped over at the dining room table, his face in a pool of vomit.  Marnie was crouched in the corner, smoking a cigarette and staring at him in a drug-induced stupor.  She had taken the leftover pills she found on the floor.  After she sobered up, she slipped easily into the role of grieving widow.

The day of Brandon’s funeral, Marnie confided her manipulation to me.  I only told one person, but this is a very small town.  Marnie’s life-long popularity soon disappeared.  She endured glares and grumbling everywhere she went.  She started acting like a lunatic and the stares lost their hateful edge.

One year later, Marnie sent her family Christmas cards stuffed with coupons for toilet paper and tampons.  Her mother dismissed the gesture as thoughtful.  The cards were mailed in May.

Everyone initially believed that her behavior was an act.   Folks said she stole trash bags of hair from a local salon for attention and pity.  After a few months, the cries for attention became more convincing.  The Marnie we all knew would never stop wearing make-up in favor of smearing her eyelids with cigarette ash.

Truth is Marnie didn’t lose her mind from guilt or grief.  She never really saw the fault of her actions.  A pitiful and resented widow was a fate worse than she had imagined.  She lost her mind because she didn’t have the right to feel sorry for herself.

Unfaithful blogging

I’ve been cheating on my blog this week and posting to other blogs.  You know, exploring my options, trying to raise this profile and up my hustle.

On Wednesday, I posted ‘You can be a nut-job, too!’ to That’s What She Said Books.

On Friday, I posted ‘The cool kids are reading indie books.’ to Crazy Lady with a Pen.

A big shout out to Brina and Darian for allowing me to ramble on their pages.  Indie authors rock my socks!!

xoxo

Penni

Interview with PJ Jones, Indie Superstar

The best indie authors are prolific, professional, approachable, and talented.  PJ Jones is all of these things, and one of my favorite people whom I’ve never actually met.  I thought she would be the perfect first interview for my shiny new blog.  And no, PJ Jones is not another one of my identities.

Me: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?

PJ: Are we talking old school David Lee Roth? If so, then YES! He filled those leather pants WAYYYY better! And, sorry, Sammy’s voice just couldn’t compare to David’s, especially those sexy screech things DLR infused into his music. If I ever write a vampire rockstar parody, DLR will be my inspiration.

Me: If you had said Gary Sherone, I was going to storm out of the interview.  It wouldn’t have meant much to you, since I’m sitting in my kitchen and you’re in some other state.

You’re a very prolific writer.  What’s your typical writing routine?

PJ: My writing routine usually consists of me having a really weird dream, waking up and writing like crazy for several days on end, until my neck and fingers are literally cramping, then I goof off and/or promote for several weeks until the next strange dream.

Me: After writing the awesome parodies, were you afraid you wouldn’t be able to write a dramatic novel?

PJ:  Truthfully, I began writing Driving Me Nuts about a year ago after a dream I had where Owen Wilson was sitting beside me in a car, crying as he tore pages out of a novel. After I wrote the first scene, I had it in my head that this was going to be a comedy; however, my characters took the story in a different direction. I was able to infuse comedy into several scenes, but, yeah, this is pretty dramatic, especially compared to my parodies. There were several parts that were hard to write, especially the graveyard scene. Luckily, or unluckily, I’ve also suffered through some dark times, so I was able to draw from those experiences to channel my own emotions into my characters.

Me: I had a dream once that I was getting busy with Joel McHale, but then I realized it was actually Jeff Winger so I was a little disappointed.

Driving Me Nuts is fantastic.  I love the character Apple.  I think though most people haven’t had such a hard life, she’s still very relatable.  Is there any of you in Apple?

PJ: Absolutely, there’s a lot of me in Apple. I’ve had a few hard knocks in life, though not as hard as hers. And though it takes a lot to earn her trust, she still manages to find the good in people, which I think is awesome.

Me:  Have you known any men like Ruckus?

PJ: Yep. The solid, steady, hard-working part is definitely much like my husband. I was fortunate enough to be able to lean on him when I was very sick. He helped me through it and has worked hard so that we could pay for the best doctors. He sometimes has a short temper like Ruckus, mostly with stupid people, LOL. Luckily, I haven’t seen him piss all over things.

Me: I’m really glad your husband doesn’t pee on things when he’s upset.  He probably would have ruined a few laptops by now, and that would have set back your writing.

Who’s your favorite dead author?

PJ: I haven’t read the dead authors in quite a while, but one story which has always stuck with me has been The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot. I am also a fan of Emily Dickenson and William Blake poetry.

Me: Who’s your favorite living author?

PJ: Living authors? That’s a toughy because I LOVE so many and have eclectic tastes. For humor, Mykle Hanson and Tim Dorsey. For paranormal and fantasy, Shea MacLeod, JK Rowling and CL Wilson.

Me: What’s next for PJ Jones, indie author powerhouse?

PJ: Right now I am working on promoting. I have a short story, Fred’s Best Christmas, a spin-off of Driving Me Nuts!, coming out early November. I have a humorous paranormal blog with Curiosity Quills every Friday and we are working on a much bigger project (more details this spring). I am also planning on writing another redneck comedy and the sequel to Romance Novel this spring.

Me: Thank you for being my very first blog interview.

If you haven’t had enough of me and PJ for today, check out my review of Romance Novel.

And my review of The Vampire Handbook.

You can also visit PJ’s website.

Driving Me Nuts!

Three mental patients, two loaded guns, one stolen car and a whole lot of trouble…

Every Friday night Ruckus and his roommate Fred sneak out of Shady Grove Home for the Mentally Insane for a ride in their orderly’s convertible. A trip to the used book store and the Dairy Queen is Ruckus’s one little routine among the chaos of pissing all over the lunch trays.

There is nothing routine about Apple, another Shady Grove resident who wants to go joyriding with the boys. It quickly becomes obvious she has bigger plans than getting an ice cream cone— plans that could land them in jail or even worse.

When their lives are threatened by three angry ex-cons and a crooked cop, it’s up to Ruckus to get his friends back to Shady Grove in one piece. But first, they all need to face reality and confront their tragic pasts. It doesn’t take long for Ruckus to realize that if Apple doesn’t drive him totally nuts, she just may be the one to help restore his sanity.

Romance Novel

Smella Rosepetal must find a millionaire husband to finance her baby’s heart transplant. She flies home to her deputy father’s ranch in Pitchforks, Texas, where she falls in love with Deadward Forest, a wealthy environmentalist vampire.

When a deranged murderer is on the loose in Pitchforks, killing romance heroines, Deadward assumes Smella would be safer without him. Smella turns to her childhood friend, Snake Long, for comfort. But Snake doesn’t have the money to save her baby, so Smella places herself in peril in a desperate hunt for a rich husband.

Time is running out for Smella’s baby, and she must escape the Australian Outback, then face down Flabio, an overweight and disgruntled, aspiring cover model, plus enraged vampire wives and their homosexual, vampire, cowboy husbands, a jealous were-gerbil, James Bond, a drunk rodeo clown and Smella’s strange boyfriend who wants to drain her blood, yet is repulsed by her smell. ROMANCE NOVEL—the unabridged, unauthorized comedic look at the bestselling vampire series that will leave you wondering who the hell ever believed vampires could “sparkle.” And you’ll laugh…all the way to the bathroom!